At last, England have big-hitter to take on the world!
Eoin Morgan has been representing England for less than a year but already he has produced more memorable limited-overs knocks than some batsmen manage in a lifetime.
His sparkling 110 not out in the second one-day international against Bangladesh was the kind of innings which, among his team-mates, only an in-form Kevin Pietersen could contemplate. And, like his match-winning 67 not out in the first Twenty20 international against Pakistan in Dubai, it was sealed with a loving six.
But it is the sheer inventiveness of Morgan’s strokeplay that has made him such a joy to watch.
Yesterday he received the dual honour of an incremental contract from the ECB and a hymn of praise from former England captain Michael Vaughan, who hailed ‘a player we have been crying out for — for many years’.
Sweeping statement: Morgan hits out on his way to a match-winning 110 not out in the second ODI against Bangladesh
This is a batsman who honed his excellent hand-eye batting skills in a Dublin alleyway with three cricket-mad brothers — not, as has been claimed, in a primary-school dabble with the Gaelic sport of hurling.
And he has translated his unorthodoxy into success at all but the highest level. Test cricket will surely not be deprived of his originality for long.
In fact, Morgan’s journey through Irish schools cricket — and a Middlesex trial aged 16 after being talent-spotted playing against Eton — to international honours and an Indian Premier League contract worth £150,000 has been achieved with perfect timing.
Years of textbook pokes and prods have left England as the only major cricketing nation never to have lifted a global one-day trophy.
So when, after the 6-1 NatWest Series defeat by Australia in September, coach Andy Flower decided he wanted his batsmen to adopt a no-fear approach, Morgan ticked all the boxes.
‘Being aggressive puts the onus on the opposition,’ Morgan told Sportsmail. ‘The new brand of batting makes you want to be part of a winning team.
‘We’ve also talked a lot about knowing our strengths. If someone who doesn’t play the reverse-sweep gets out reverse-sweeping, you’d ask, “What are you doing?” But it’s part of my game and what I do really well, so I wouldn’t be fussed if I got out reverse-sweeping. It’s happened before and it will happen again.’
Morgan played the shot with repeated success against Bangladesh’s five-man spin attack two days ago, although his lesser-spotted leg-side paddle — described as a ‘flip blade’ — stayed hidden in his box of tricks for the evening.
Yet nobody better embodies England’s brave new one-day world. And few players would have the self-assurance to ascribe such sleight of hand to a simple desire to ‘just hit the ball’.
Morgan said: ‘When I got into Middlesex’s one-day team at the age of 18, I thought I couldn’t clear the boundary very well, so I started practising new strokes. I just found it came easy. It felt very natural.’
It has helped, too, that brawn has kept pace with brain, and his forearms earned admiring coos from commentators during a mouth-watering 67 off 34 balls against South Africa during the Champions Trophy in September.
Comparisons have been made with Graham Thorpe and Neil Fairbrother, two other impish left-handers of recent England vintage. But neither possessed Morgan’s six-hitting prowess.
Team-mate Matt Prior said: ‘We always knew on the county circuit he had a sweep and reverse-sweep, but the power-hitting I haven’t seen until now. Since he’s come into the team we never feel out of the game. It’s hugely exciting.’ The man himself admits he draws the line at the switch-hit made famous by Pietersen, but when you can score 85 not out from 45 deliveries, as Morgan did in a Twenty20 game against South Africa in November, it may be one party-piece he can do without.
A friend says: ‘Eoin doesn’t do self-doubt.’ But that is part of the 23-year-old’s charm.
His favourite format is Twenty20, partly because it resonates with Irish friends who otherwise give cricket a wide berth. And he concedes he supports the country of his birth against England in rugby and football.
Cricket is another matter, despite him playing 23 one-day internationals for Ireland before switching sides. But does he feel English?
‘I do,’ he said. ‘I feel a bit English, yeah. I’ve lived there for a long time. Yeah, I probably do.’ Perhaps the hesitancy stems from his very un-English approach. ‘You can be over-coached,’ he said. ‘I haven’t been, which I think is evident.
‘That’s one of the stronger parts of my game. If I got picked for a Test, it would be stupid of me to deflect any of my talent or natural way of playing.’
England fans everywhere will hope he is true to his word.